3 answers

What are good ways to make money as a professional artist?

Asked Mount Vernon, Washington

I'm studying to be an art teacher and I know that it'd hard to make it in the art world on selling your art alone, but I definitely want to make money on my art along with my job as a teacher. What are other ways to make money as an artist after earning a BFA or MFA?

#art #artist #painting #drawing-and-painting #bfa #mfa

3 answers

Andy’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Hi Rachel,


It's great to hear that you want to become a teacher, especially an art teacher. It is a noble endeavor and I wish you all the best of luck on that journey.


"Art" is a very broad term and covers everything from literature and performance art to sculpture and digital painting. The kinds of work and jobs that you can find vary greatly depending on the type of art that you create. From selling fine art pieces in galleries to working in commercial art for television, video games, ads, etc. it will be important for you to know how to market yourself and what it is that you like to do.


Schools do like to hire teachers with professional, industry experience. I've had many teachers who used to or still do work as gainfully employed artists. If you teach at the college level you might even be able to have a full time art career while teaching one or two classes. At the high school or lower level it might be more difficult since you would be teaching class everyday. In that case it might be more feasible to create a few pieces to sell at galleries.


Being selected to sell at galleries is a whole different process than working in commercial art. Since I don't have personal experience with that I cannot give you much help in that area. If that's your goal, find local artists and galleries and talk to them to get more information. Basically, try to find professionals who create art similar to yours and ask for advice. I know that's what you're doing here but a little more information and detail on what type of art you're pursuing would be helpful to give better input and feedback.


Andy recommends the following next steps:

  • Define your specific field of art and look at how professionals in that field make a living
  • Talk to your school counselor and/or career advisor to see what resources your school might offer for information and advice
  • Talk to experienced art teachers and see how they supplement their income

Mary’s Answer

Updated Dallas, Texas

Hello Rachel! I don't know about you but I live on social media and that includes Instagram. Have you seen the artists that post their artwork and sell it directly to customers? Build it and they will come! Once you have a good collection going you should also look into setting up a pop up shop like a lot of upcoming artists and creatives are doing these days to sell their products. The digital world is full of unlimited opportunities. Best of luck!

Mary recommends the following next steps:

  • Visit Artists instagram pages

Ellen’s Answer

Updated Woodbridge, Virginia

Hi Rachel

Hooray! A future art teacher! I understand your question of wanting it all...to be an artist and a teacher, and a teacher and an artist. It's kind of what most art teachers want. We wouldn't be much use as an art teacher if we didn't create our own art, but how to balance our own art making with our teaching?


I hope you find employment as an art teacher in a school district that pays you a good salary, and provides you with benefits, and supports the Arts programs in its schools. I know this is not always the case, and you, like many other teachers, might need to get a side or summer job to help pay the bills. It makes sense for you to think about an art related job.


The thing is, teaching, if you really care about your job and your students, is pretty intense, especially for the first 4 years. A novice teacher is expected to operate pretty much at the same level as the teacher he or she replaced, who might have been on the job for 20-30 years. The first years can be overwhelming at times.


To give you an idea, here was my typical day. I got to school between 6:30 and 6:45 AM to get things ready for my classes, (7th grade art, 8th grade art, advanced art), read and reply to email, load the kiln, get out supplies, cue up Powerpoints, and so on. My students would arrive at 7:30, and the day would begin; I'd have half an hour for lunch and a planning period a day, during which I would grade artwork and other papers; load/unload the kiln; order supplies; unpack and store supplies; take work off display and put work on display; work on lesson plans and Powerpoint presentations; set up teaching displays and teaching examples of artwork; contact parents; and prep supplies (counting paintbrushes, cutting paper, getting out paint, and so on). After the students left at 2:30, it would be more of the same, plus faculty and departmental meetings, plus working with students after school and running an art club one day a week. I would be happy if I got out by 4:00 PM. Then it would be, drive home, cook dinner and maybe do some grading of quizzes or other papers, and some more planning. In bed by 9:30 PM to do it all over again the next day. I think you get the idea that having time in the evening for my own artwork was difficult to find. The weekends were better, but then there were the household distractions...cleaning, grocery shopping, and so on. All of this does not take into consideration having a social life or a family......


I don't mean to discourage you, I loved my job and would do it again in a heartbeat if I was a young person. But to be able to keep up with your own artwork is a challenge, and you have to be really disciplined. I found I if I did not have the energy for my painting, I could do beading and block prints in the evenings and on the weekends. I did not sell them before I retired, but in retrospect, I think I could have, (but not in my first 3 years). Now, as a retired teacher, I sell my beads online, and my prints at craft fairs. Beware that the business side of selling your artwork is its own challenge, and it will take some time and energy to get it set up, but it is doable. I have not made much money from it, but I find it very satisfying to have my work out there.


Now that there are online platforms like Etsy and others, it is easier to sell your work online. Etsy has a whole section for setting up your " etsy shop", which is very helpful for general art entrepreneurship advice. There are pages and pages on Pinterest about selling your artwork. You might also check out some community art galleries where you can show and sell your work. Check out local craft fairs; attend one and ask some of the vendors about selling art work (if they are not too busy!). You might also check out some community art centers that offer classes and see about teaching there on weekends or during the summers. You could also consider offering private art lessons to adults or children, either at their homes or at yours.


I hope this helps. Best wishes on your future career as an art teacher and as an artist.